Now that the Road Safety Remuneration Order (RSRO) is a distant memory – well, almost – does any party in the supply chain still have any obligations in relation to ‘safe rates’?
Before its demise, the RSRO was determined to promote heavy vehicle safety by linking safety to remuneration, the idea being that better paid drivers on hourly rates have less incentive to cut corners and breach road safety laws, such as driving for longer hours than permitted.
The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal Act (the Act) contained substantial penalties for breaches of that Act and orders made by the tribunal.
Penalties for those types of breaches still exist and consignors and consignees still have an obligation under Chain of Responsibility (CoR) law to prevent a driver from driving while fatigued.
To protect yourself and your company, you should ensure that your terms of consignment (i.e. your contracts) won’t “result in, encourage or provide an incentive” to a driver to drive while fatigued, which is provided in s 235 of the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL).
For instance, wording in your contracts should not reward or encourage drivers to:
• exceed speed limits
• exceed regulated driving hours;
• fail to meet the minimum rest requirements
• drive while impaired by fatigue, or
• breach their mass, dimension load restraint requirements.
For example, contracts that state you will refuse to pay drivers if they do not meet the delivery windows, or bonuses if they arrive at their destination ahead of schedule could be seen as encouraging drivers to break the law.
There is little doubt that the RSRT considered that a contract that provided a flat rate for the movement of freight would both encourage and incentivise a driver to drive while fatigued.
Whether drivers actually drove while fatigued does not appear to be important. All that is required to constitute a breach of s 235 is that the terms of consignment might provide an incentive to do so.
The onus will be on the prosecution to establish that the relevant terms might have that effect. They would need to produce some science-based evidence to that effect.
The maximum penalty for the offence is $10,000.
To make sure you don’t unintentionally fall into the trap of encouraging breaches of CoR in your supply chain, subscribe today to CoR Adviser, and get the legal advice, tips and downloadable documents you need to stay out of trouble and operate your business safely.